Thursday, April 28, 2005

Speaking of Sleep

I was talking to Bruce in a two bit dive. I cannot remember what brought us there. I think it was a chance encounter on the road that made us pull over at that spot. No matter.
He was telling me that he could not sleep and was fearful that as he became older, he would not be able to sleep because he would be afraid of dying in slumber.
“What?” I asked, “You’re afraid of missing something?”
“No” he replied,” It’s just that if I were awake I could fight it.”
“Why are you even thinking about this? I mean, we all think about death sometimes and we’re all going to die, but what good does it do to worry about it? Do you want to die?” I wondered aloud.
“No, that’s the last thing I’d want to do” says Bruce.”
A moment passes as we take a sip and look into each other’s eyes.
“Are you doing this on purpose?” I ask, smiling wryly.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Oatmeal Cookies

Baking with Ms. Information
Buy the really giant size of oatmeal, the kind that looks like a silo and barely fits in the car. The reason you need this size is economics; the smaller size costs twenty five cents more for 100 lbs less product. (Thank you consumer’s digest.)

The new improved box has a plastic lid which actually makes it close well, and makes you feel guilty about discarding it, unlike the old box which opened with a string which would invariably break while trying to open the oatmeal causing you to employ every sharp utensil at hand, the end result being an imperfect bottom ridge which crumpled when you try to replace this makeshift lid. You still had to throw that one away because they only recycle newspapers and glass in your neighborhood. In fact, there is no place which accepts paper containers except for nursery schools and if you do not have a toddler, they will not accept gifts from strangers either.

I realize that this detour is immaterial to the process of cooking, but it is food for thought.

Okay, use the recipe which used to be on the back of the box, but which will be on the inside of the lid causing you to open the box before shopping for ingredients (kind of dodgy to open it in the store, but we do what needs to be done.) Make half the recipe because if you don’t you will eat all of the cookies yourself if they are any good. Also the idea of using half a pound of butter in anything will make you sick. Mutter bitter imprecations towards the media for enforcing extra guilt on you.
Carefully add ingredients in their proper order and then, realizing that your family will not eat walnuts and that you have already eaten ¾ of the chocolate chips straight out of the bag, decide to use apple chunks instead, no matter what havoc the extra moisture will cause, and some dates because you like them and they will bulk up the batter. Add more stuff than you think the recipe would have called for and then throw in the leftover chocolate chips.

Note: the calories saved by eating the chips without the cookie part will save you tons of calories! Think about it.

Notice that the texture is very creamy and produces few cookies on the tray- Attribute this to halving the recipe and question your foresight. Put cookies in oven and in approximately 1½ minutes, just enough time for the batter temperature to have melted the chocolate, realize that you have forgotten to add the oatmeal. Blame this oversight on the fact that the box was so large you assumed it was furniture with a recipe tacked to it. Ignore the fact that oatmeal was listed as an ingredient and that you forgot it. Quickly grab the cookie tray with a potholder and pull the tray out of the open. Your first impulse will be to grab the tray with your hands but believe me when I say, this is not a good time for second or third degree burns on your fingers.

Scrape the melted stuff back into the bowl with the remainder of the batter and incorporate, looking at the interesting color of the cookies as opposed to what you had previously expected.

Helpful hint: the only really acceptable tool for scraping runny batter off of the pan is the 1950
Farberware metal spatula acquired from your mother who received it with a matched set of utensils as a wedding gift, or you could use a spackling tool, whichever comes to hand first.

Add the missing oatmeal and a bit of flour to firm it up and put cookies back on the tray and into the oven. Under bake just a bit for soft chewy cookies.

Further note: when entertaining, finely ground glass sprinkled liberally over the cookies prior to baking lends a festive glitter and added crunch to the surface.
Bon Appetit!

Next week: How to mix cement.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


An oldie but a goodie. (get it?)
Driving home from the shore, we pass a candy store whose main staple appears to be Fudge. I believe the name of the store is Madge’s Fudge, and that gives it away. It was a Sunday, and after 5 when we passed the store, and although all other stores selling food, gas, liquor, and sundries were open, this store was closed, prompting me to ask J, in the driver’s seat, have you ever seen that store open? No, he had not, in his memory although the store was decorated for July 4th, and the grounds were neat, and there was a fresh coat of paint on the walls of the building.
About 20 miles later, right next to a restaurant, we saw a second fudge shop, and it was also closed, and yet the business adjacent to it was doing a land office business.

In short, fudge is icing without the hindrance of cake. As a small child, my sister was hugely popular at birthday parties because of her dislike, or possible indifference to icing. Fudge is a confection that is either enjoyed immensely, or disliked entirely, depending, I think, on one’s affection for sweets and fats. Since the addition of a non-fat, artificially sweetened version, I wonder about the criterion, but then, I suppose the people who purchase the imitation are thinking about their health in a superficial way. If they were really concerned with the fat and sugar, they would just give the food up. Unlike my grandfather the chemist, who believed that artificial ingredients were better - read: less expensive, I feel that where food is concerned, I would always prefer the original recipe, so my figure has suffered while my taste buds enjoy themselves.

After passing the second closed shop, I again asked J,” What do you make of this? All of the other places on this road are open, and the candy stores are closed.”
“ I don’t think it is a fudge time of day,” he offered.
“ Well, at what time would one be interested in such an indulgence?” I inquired.
“From 2 to 5” was his concise answer, and in answer to my further questioning “and would it be a sunny kind of a day?”
His answer was only “yes.”

After that we discussed that although anything could be had from mail order and the Internet, we felt that salt- water taffy was a commodity only to be obtained on a boardwalk in New Jersey. There was a general agreement that for no known reason, fudge came under the same heading.
When we went to Cape May, his mother blithely requested that we bring her some fudge, as if it were not readily available elsewhere, or that coming from a resort town, it might be all the more deluxe. As it happened, the temperature in the car was about half that of molten chocolate, and we decided against a purchase.

A friend of mine, in an effort to help me find a job, and be satisfied with something close to minimum wage said “Just think of it as pocket money. When I lived out west with my first husband, I was at home with the kids, and to make some extra cash, I made the most wonderful fudge, and wrapped it in beautiful cellophane, and sold it to people and stores. After a while, I was making so much that it took most of the day for me and the maid to finish.”
I was astonished at this story, not because my friend was handy in the kitchen but because of that offhand way she threw in “the maid”. If a person could afford to pay a maid, did one really need pocket money? Maids were a lot cheaper in those days, and I suppose it was a lot of help to have a second pair of hands in the kitchen. If she spent money on the ingredients, and took the time, and paid the maid, and still made money, was her husband wise to this scheme or did he approve of her ambition? My friend is worldly and sophisticated works mostly in Art Administration these days, and it is amusing to imagine her in a western town, wearing her day dress and apron as was done in the 50’s, whipping up candy with the maid, in the kitchen. She may have even saved some for her family to have for a treat.
My real desire was to ask,” could you make some for me?”

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Chocolate Jesus

Last week Andy wrote to me: Does Jesus love me more than the Easter Bunny? Because, I don’t see him leaving me any chocolate rabbits and I have never seen a chocolate Jesus.
Well, Andrew, your wish is about to be fulfilled. I have decided that there is money to be made in the Chocolate Jesus business.
We can sell them all year; baby Jesus for Christmas, and even Pieta Jesus and Mary for Easter. Consider having the fabulous Jesus on the cross chocolate figurine with raspberry filling running from his stigmata. YUM!!!! There could be the Jesus turning water into wine with a tie in to the Coppola Winery, and there could be millions of chocolate Jesus fish! The possibilities are endless! And why stop there? We could make chocolate Moses for Jews, chocolate Buddhas for the Asians, and Chocolate Vishnu and Ganesh for the Indians. It’s a gold mine, I tell you! There will be no stopping us. The only problem is that they melt when you try to keep them on the dashboard with the other crap you have there.